The Girl from Ipanema and Her Ukulele

Posted in Humor on March 18th, 2009 by MadDog
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Apologies up front to those of you with sluggish internet connections.

Something went funny in my head this morning. Tiny screws and little springs were falling out of my ears. It was very disconcerting, but not out of the ordinary. It wouldn’t bother me, except that I can’t escape the notion that there is a limited supply of hardware in my cranium.

And then, just as things stopped rattling around up there, I saw a little piece on BoingBoing that shocked me to the very core of my being. I saw a young woman playing a ukulele. That, in itself, is not so odd. What blew my mind was that it actually sounded nice.  She was playing some jazz number which left me cold, but her style was amazing. I decided to see if she had anything else that I would like better.

Sure enough, she has a YouTube clip of The Girl from Ipanema.  Here it is for your amazement:

As you can imagine, that stirred me up. Bossa Nova was my favourite genre in the old days, back when cave men roamed the village lanes. I can remember my bleeding fingers as I practised Antonio Carlos Jobim songs until Eunie would come screaming out of the kitchen with the handle of an eight pound cast iron skillet in her dainty hand.

But, a UKULELE? Come on, this is joke music* – except in Hawaii. How many other people have attempted this nearly impossible feat and succeeded without being laughed off the planet?

According to a YouTube search for “girl from ipanema” and ukulele, there are quite a few. Here is a very sophisticated rendition:

How about some lessons to get you up to speed:

Here’s one in which the playing is not so bad, but it sounds like it has been about ten years since the fellow actually heard the song. There is a spot where he consistently gets it wrong:

Nice try, but don’t give up your day job, man:

A very earnest and literal interpretation. Sounds like Jobim. Give this guy a couple of more months to practice and he’ll have it down:

Think you’ve heard it all? Hah! Hah, I say! How about a DUET of ukuleles doing THGFI in Portuguese, no less:

Okaaaay, I can see that I’ve not tortured you sufficiently. Here’s Howlin’ Hobbit with his rendition direct from his caravan down by the river:

I sincerely hope that my brain will reset itself by morning.

*I have been to Hawaii many times. I mean no disrespect. However, it is not my fault that the local genre sounds like a morose imitation of Dixieland Jazz, which I also hate. Excuse me for having an opinion.

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Purple Lips and Elephant Ears

Posted in Under the Sea on March 17th, 2009 by MadDog
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On Friday afternoon, we went out to Pig Island  and dived at Barracuda Point. The water on top was very cloudy, so we headed deep to see what we could see. At about 40m we saw one lonely Whitetip Reef Shark (Triaenodon obesus)  resting on the bottom. It was quite dark, so I had to make the shot monochrome to be able to use it:

Whitetip Reef Shark (Triaenodon obesus)On the way back up, we saw this unusually bright colouration of an Elephant Ear Sponge (Ianthella basta).  They come in several different colours, red, green, purple, blue and this brilliant yellow. Im not sure what an elephant’s ear feels like, but these feel like one of those scratcher pads that you clean your post with. This one was about a metre long:

Elephant Ear Sponge (Ianthella basta)
The Clown Triggerfish (Balistoides conspicillum)  is one of the more difficult of the larger species to photograph. They are usually very shy and manage to keep just beyond camera range. I chased this one for about 50 metres before he slowed down enough and turned a little so I could get a shot at him. They are ridiculous looking creatures. God must have a rich sense of humour:

Clown Triggerfish (Balistoides conspicillum)

Carol spotted this unusual Adhesive Anemone (Cryptodendrum adhaesivum).  It’s not visually spectacular, but it is spectacularly sticky. This one had a small shrimp in it, but my camera was acting up and I couldn’t use any of the controls. That’s why there are no macro shots in this post. Someone should investigate this anemone to see how it makes its glue:

Adhesive Anemone (Cryptodendrum adhaesivum)

It is surprisingly rare to find a nice empty shell. I suppose that many people think that they are lying around all over the place. I find maybe one or two a year. When I spotted this one, I thought it must be inhabited by the original snail, because it was pristinely shiny. The shells of newly dead snails encrust quickly and lose their shine. That is because the creature’s mantle no longer covers it and protects its sheen.

Carol Dover

We never take shells that are occupied, either by their original inhabitant or some opportunistic squatter such as a hermit crab. If something is living in it, we leave it where we find it.

Here is a little gallery of the Purple Mouthed Cowrie (Cypraea  carneola)  so that you can see how pretty it is:

Carol will be leaving us soon, so I’m encouraging her to goof off as often as possible. She is doing a fine job.

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The Blueblood Mob Bids Farewell To Tracey

Posted in Madang Happenings on March 16th, 2009 by MadDog
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A small mob of dedicated enthusiasts showed up at Blueblood on Sunday to bid farewell to Tracey Lee. Though she is notoriously camera-shy, I managed to get this “Fine Wine” shot of her:

Tracey Lee
The label reads “Winery of the Year.”  Here is Tracey Lee and Carol Dover at Planet Rock:
Tracey Lee and Carol Dover
Another day, another dive. Here is Tracey leading the way:
Tracey Lee and dive buddies - Tracey leads the way
Fun in the sun, warm silky water, and a little vino are all it takes to make this mob happy. It’s Tracey, Eunie, Trevor, Karen, Mike, and Carol:
Tracey, Eunie, Trevor, Karen, Mike, and Carol
The “Floating Bar” is a nice touch.

Tracey is handy with a camera, so I asked her to take some shots of me. She got it right on this one:

MadDog by Tracey Lee

I like to Photoshop myself to disguise my age. Here the Poster Edges filter makes it difficult to see that I am actually the “Thousand Year-Old Man”.

I am going to miss Tracey. She is a reliable and steady-headed dive buddy, a friend that one can count on, and invaluable at a party.

Auf Wiedersehen, mein Schatz. At least until the next time.

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An Impossibly Brilliant Anemone

Posted in Under the Sea on March 15th, 2009 by MadDog
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Saturday morning we made the arduous twenty minute journey out to Planet Rock  in Astrolabe Bay.  I shouldn’t moan about the travel time. Most of our dives are within ten minutes of my house.

On the Southwest corner at about 23 metres is a large Bulb Anemone (Entacmaea quadricolor).   I say that with some confidence, but this one is highly unusual. Have a look: (the diver is Tracey)

Flourescent Bulb Anemone (Entacmaea quadricolor)
I have only seen this bright red fluorescent pigmentation in a Bulb Anemone in one other location. That was out at Crown Island.  To say that it is spectacular would be a gross understatement. I’ve been watching this anemone for nearly fifteen years. It’s hard to believe that it has remained healthy for so long.

It’s also hard to believe that I have not fiddled with the colours in these shots. I always strive to reproduce colours that are as I saw them. I prefer the natural look as opposed to the garish oversaturated colours that are seen in many underwater shots. In this case, however, I actually had to tone down the red a bit, since it looked completely fake. Here’s another shot showing a couple of Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus):

Flourescent Bulb Anemone (Entacmaea quadricolor)
There are many beautiful little reef scenes at Planet Rock. Here’s a typical fish playground:
Reef Scene
I botched the job of smoothing out all the little specks floating in the water. If you look carefully (click to enlarge), you will see a faint discolouration around the fish. I should do it over again, but it’s Sunday, and Tracey is leaving us, so I need to go up to Blueblood for the party. Speaking of Tracey, here she is playing with a little Porcelain Crab in an anemone:
Tracey playing with a little crab in an anemone
This shot of a Papuan Scorpionfish (Scorpaenopsis papuensis)  is not very good. I bumped my camera housing into a piece of coral and got a few drops of water inside. This is the primary horror of underwater photographers. Fortunately, it was only a small amount and none got onto the camera. However, the little window on the front of the housing was fogging up, so the shot is not very clear. I include it only because this is the only shot that I have of a juvenile of this species. Technically it’s not a juvenile, but it is not full grown either. Its beard is only beginning to grow:
Papuan Scorpionfish (Scorpaenopsis papuensis) - juvenile
I’ve yakked enough now. I’ll show you some pretty skies that we saw on the way back:A typical Madang skyWe made a circle around the end of the island chain and came back from the North. This is looking East at the North end of Kranket Island. You can see the Cumulonimbus clouds building up over the Finesterre Mountains  in the afternoon heat.

This shot is looking back towards Kar Kar Island:

Going home - the wake points to Kar Kar Island
Come to Madang someday. We’ll show you all of this.

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Madoff Gets What’s Coming To Him

Posted in Mixed Nuts on March 14th, 2009 by MadDog
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It is ever so nice to see that some scumbags eventually get what’s coming to them. We’ve lost about half of our retirement savings in the last year. At least we are not lonely. But, what about all the people who lost vast amounts because of the greed of this creep? I feel worse for them, even the rich ones that should have known better but couldn’t pass up the seemingly miraculous deal. (If it seems too good to be true, then it most certainly is.)

Here’s part of what he had to say to the Judge:  (from the article linked above)

“I am actually grateful for this opportunity to publicly comment about my crimes, for which I am deeply sorry and ashamed,” he told Judge Chin.

“As the years went by, I realised my risk, and this day would inevitably come,” he said in a steady voice. “I cannot adequately express how sorry I am for my crimes.”

“When I began the Ponzi scheme, I believed it would end shortly and I would be able to extricate myself and clients from the scheme,” he said. “This proved to be difficult and ultimately impossible.”

Oh, poor baby.  He’s so sorry. I feel so sad for him. See how contrite he looks: (again, from the article linked above)

Badoff in court (from the Australian Business website)
Are you getting sick of slick criminals such as Badoff ripping us off?  Me too.

Life in prison . . .  Sounds about right to me. Too bad that he’s 70. Does that sound too vindictive? Sorry.

But wait!  How about our home-grown rip-off artists! Don’t I remember reading (constantly, without reprieve) about some of our politicians with long arms that can reach far under the table? Am I dreaming, or is corruption becoming systemic in PNG power circles.

It seems that public hangings are never going to come back into style. That’s okay. Hanging significantly shortens the time that the perpetrator has during which he can engage in intense introspection concerning just what a nasty piece of work he is. Life in the slammer is much more appropriate. I would imagine that we do it pretty cheaply here, compared to the USA.

Hey, that gives me an idea. Why don’t we see if we can get some rich countries to build warehouses here for people that they don’t want and pay us to keep them banged up? It could be a cottage industry. Villages could have a slammer with a couple of inmates chained to big rocks. They could do chores for the village. The image in my mind of Badoff dragging a big rock around sweeping up dog and pig droppings for the rest of his life somehow appeals to me. He would have plenty of time to perfect his contriteness.

How about you?

Or maybe you are nicer than me.


Get Rid of Your Ghosts

Posted in Humor on March 13th, 2009 by MadDog
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Are you troubled by pesky spirits? Do your children cower like Munchkins in their beds because of poltergeists tossing their toys around the room? Does the Boogyman drop flies in your oatmeal when you’re not looking?

You may have GHOSTS!  Have I got the thing for you!  Here it is:  the marvellous Trisaksri © Ghost Repellent:

Trisaksri © Ghost Repellent

But, “How does it work?”, you might ask. Here is the manufacturer’s explanation:

Trisaksri Ghost Repeller © composed of complex electronic circuit. The video camera was special designed to capture the invisible and inaudible signal generates from natural phenomenon such as ghost or spirit. The signal was then converted to radio signal and transmit to KILLER WAVE. The ghost spirit will be destroyed at this process. The device output is extreamly sensitive to changes of as little as 0.5% of the strength of the Earth’s magnetic field. Generally Ghost spirit usually emit weak natural electric field which can not be measured by normal meter or can not be responded by humen senses. The device has been designed to ignore the AC fields of power lines, appliances, etc. It only interact with ghost’s and animal spirit and no harm to humen health.

In case you’re not clear on that, here is a handy schematic supplied by the manufacturer:

Trisaksri © Ghost Repellent schematic diagram
There you go. Now you know as much as I do about it.

Here’s some essential product information:

Product dimension 20 x 21 x 20 cm in wooden box
Net weight 2900 gram
Rated Voltage 110 vac and 220 vac, 50-60 Hz
Electric current 2 Amp
Ghost capture Video camera special design for low magnetic field or natural phenomenon
Display meter 15 LED indicator of magnetic/electromagnetic field INPUT
Repellent system (Out put) Video capture the invisible picture then convert to radio signal and sent to WAVE KILLER gernerated by complex electronic circuit.

I wondered what a ghost might look like. So, I turned myself into one:

Me as a ghost

Not very scary, eh? It would have been better if I had been more careful that the chair did not move between shots. It was about a two minute job with Photoshop.

I feel as if I have performed a vaulable public service. Now I can take the rest of the day off and go diving with Carol. It is  Friday.


The Deadly Ice Cream Cone

Posted in Dangerous on March 12th, 2009 by MadDog
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I need to get back into the water. Let’s see . . . If I sweet-talk my boss (that’s my wife Eunie – Yes, really!), I might be able to take off tomorrow afternoon for a dive. I’ll tell you later how that goes.

In the meantime, I’ll get figuratively back into the water by showing you some more shots that we got on the inside of the reef at the West end of Pig Island last Saturday.

Here is something that I’d bet that you haven’t seen all week:

Sea Pen (Vigularia sp.)
It’s a Sea Pen. This one is some species of Vigularia.  It sticks up out of the sand about 20cm and looks a lot like a feather. What is surprising is that if you give it a tap, it pulls down into the sand and disappears! I love to see the look on the faces of divers who have not seen this before.

This thing is a Fan Worm (Sabellastarte indica):

Fan Worm (Sabellastarte indica)
It looks like a dead bird fallen on the coral with its feathers blowing slowly in the wind. If you get too close, it will disappear down into its tubular house so quickly that you can see no movement at all. One microsecond it’s there and the next, it’s vanished. It’s about the size of your hand.

Of course, almost anybody would recognise this is a Giant Clam (Tridacna maxima):

Giant Clam (Tridacna maxima)
This one is hardly a man-eater. I remember in the old movies when a diver would get caught in a giant clam. They can  clamp together quickly, but I seriously doubt if the clam would like to keep your leg inside. It would probably want to spit it out as quickly as possible. This one is about 30cm long.

Here is a different shot of the Spinecheek Anemonefish that I showed to you the other day (Premnas biaculeatus):

Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus)
The little partner is probably unrelated. I used to think that all the Anemonefish that inhabit an anemone were related to each other. I discovered that this could not be less true. Since there is a free-swimming planktonic phase in the life-cycle, each individual fish must find a host anemone or die. The chance of it ending up on the same anemone on which it was spawned is practically nil. I’ll write more about that sometime. I learned it while researching an article on Anemonefish for Niugini Blue magazine.

In a large sandy area there were thousands of tiny hermit crabs all moving in the same direction in a hurry. I’ve never seen that before and I don’t have any idea what it was all about. Here are a couple of them:

No, I haven’t forgotten about the Deadly Ice Cream Cone. This is a Cone snail (Conus litteratus):
Cone snail (Conus litteratus)
It is one of the most deadly creatures in the ocean. It has a harpoon-like barb that it uses to kill fish. Yes, you heard that right. This snail is a vicious piscivore. This one is about as long as a finger. I’ve seen movies of a cone snail harpooning a fish larger that itself. Here is a video clip of a Cone Snail capturing a small fish:
Is that scary? If you stuck your finger close to the business end, you could be dead in 24 hours. I turned this one over with a stick to I could take the shot.

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